New York Cruising Recovers from Sandy

| 11.18.12

It has taken a Herculean effort to keep New York running as a cruise port - post-Sandy

New York Cruises Sail on!

As we all know, the Brooklyn borough of Red Hook was hit especially hard by Sandy. The neighborhood is situated right at the point where the East River meets the widest part New York Harbor adjacent to the Statue of Liberty. Red Hook is also the site of the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal which was developed and opened for regular cruise business in 2006.

The Red Hook docks have been there for decades, so it was never uncommon in the last century to see cruise ships docked there for repairs or stowage. But in 2004 it was decided to develop the terminal as an active cruise terminal alternative to Manhattan for ships like the Queen Mary 2 which at over 150,000-tons makes it very difficult to battle the Hudson River current and dock in Manhattan.

So Cunard and the larger Princess ships were relocated to the Brooklyn Red Hook cruise terminal, but that more southerly Brooklyn neighborhood was hit hard by the surge of Sandy, flooding most of the area. The Brooklyn Cruise Terminal was not spared. It was closed down when Sandy hit and it remains closed. The target date for re-opening the Red Hook terminal is not until December 22nd for the scheduled turnaround of Queen Mary 2.

Interestingly, when the storm surge was predicted to hit on October 28th there were three ships in the Manhattan terminal; AIDAluna and Norwegian Gem, and there was one ship in the Red Hook terminal - the Queen Mary 2. These three ships were instructed to set sail ahead of the storm so they would not be tied up when the surge hit. That circumstance could have caused extensive damage to both the piers and the ships.

The Carnival Miracle was also in Manhattan, and it was also instructed to set sail a day early. Anytime a ship is told to sail early it causes a great deal of disruption in the industry since not everyone booked on any cruise plans to be at the ship a day early. These were last minute instructions.

Manhattan Bounces Back

While Red Hook is still in recovery at least one Manhattan pier, Number 88, has been restored and has been handling all of the New York Cruise traffic since November 2nd. The ground level of that historic pier on the Hudson River between 48th and 59th streets pier was covered by four feet of water when the Sandy surge hit the New York Harbor. But as the surge largely receded as soon as the next day recovery work was started almost immediately. On November 2nd Pier 88 was re-opened although functioning under emergency generator power so the elevators, escalators and boarding bridges from the pier to the ships were frozen in place.

By a stroke of luck - the last ship to dock there was Norwegian Jewel, so when sister ship Norwegian Gem returned to the pier four days later the boarding bridges were frozen in roughly the right place for disembarking passengers to leave from deck four to the ground level and for new passengers to embark, after climbing the stairs, on the upper level to deck seven.

Last Friday most of the regular power was restored to Pier 88, allowing some of the elevators and lights to function as normal. It was expected that full power would be restored by last Saturday.

To date - there have been twelve successful cruise turn arounds at Pier 88 - roughly 40,000 passengers, disembarking and embarking from Carnival, Norwegian, Princess and Cunard. For dockside check-in the cruise lines had to bring power to the terminal from the cruise ships. But not since this last weekend since full power is restored.

Much of the credit goes to Thomas Spina, the vice president of cruise operations for the New York City Economic Development Corp. Tom watched the storm surge that October night from just four blocks away and went to check on the piers personally in the middle of the night. Now that power has been restored Tom is looking forward to the Rockettes christening Norwegian Breakaway next April. He was also highly motivated by the recent introduction of regular cruises out of New York by Carnival Cruise Line, saying it was vitally important to keep this new customer happy.

Another executive; chief architect and project manager for the cruise development project, Jim Rowe, explained how electrical systems at Pier 88 had been installed according to plans to sustain the 100-year flood plan, which helped it recover more quickly. But Pier 90 was not built to the same standards and hence will require replacing the entire power plant. Pier 90 will not be ready for quite awhile.

I must give credit to an amazing article by Anne Kalosh at the Seatrade-insider web site for this information. She did a terrific overview on all of the inside baseball work done by the New York City cruise community to keep the cruise industry rolling in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

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